This change in downtown summer evening dynamics was discussed last week at the monthly Mayor's Morning, a free gathering at 7:30 a.m. the first Friday of the month. Town officials reported the events had been successful and the residents in attendance agree. But I was surprised to hear a woman say she was concerned about safety because there were so many dogs around. She said she recently was bitten on the leg by a Chihuahua being dogsat by someone in her apartment complex so the bites on her leg were a living exhibit that dogs can be unreliable. She questioned whether the mix of dogs and children downtown aren't an accident waiting to happen.
Police Chief Chris Wenzel said no such incidents have occurred yet but agreed that it is best to try to anticipate problems. But he noted that Danville Doggie Nights, which especially welcome dogs, are the most popular events of all. Someone else questioned why people would bring their dog downtown to the Fourth of July parade to sit panting in the hot sun for four hours.
I think I can answer that question: When the family is about to leave the house, the dog looks up with big expectant eyes, wagging his tail, and telepathing the message, "Take me! Take me!" And so they do. And while it may not be good for a dog in a heavy coat to sit in the sun, they are mostly content because they are part of their beloved family. Hopefully such families have the good sense to seek out shade, to provide them with plenty of water, and to leave before the parade concludes with the alarming rifle shots by E Clampus Vitus.
We used to take our little Mickey with us everywhere we could on weekends to make up for her loneliness on weekdays. Of course she was an incredibly gentle miniature American Eskimo. But I always realized that even Mickey might have had her limits if a strange child came too close so in a crowd I would carry her, fearing that just possibly if she were stepped on or hurt, she might snap. After all, the Danville woman at the breakfast had been bitten by a Chihuahua.
Someone mentioned how scary it is to see a small child stand eye-to-eye with a dog that is not muzzled. This is true. And this seems to be the crux of the problem. Why would parents allow a small child to approach a strange dog in a public place? And if people bring their dogs into a public venue, they need to make sure that no one does approach the pet. And dogs, especially large dogs, must be trained properly from the time they are puppies. People really can't take their eyes off their children or their dogs for a second because that's how quickly accidents happen.
Dogs are already not allowed at the farmers market, per orders of the health department. Is it too much to expect people to use common sense in bringing their pets downtown? If an event is too crowded, it might be best to bring the dog back home. But I would hate to see dogs banned. I personally like to get a "dog fix" at downtown events as well as a "kid fix," when I admire babies and little children. They all bring joy into our lives and are just one more reason to attend events downtown.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.
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